Departure is worrying

By Country News

The surprise announcement that Goulburn-Murray Water’s managing director was leaving last week was a disappointment for a number of reasons.

John Calleja had his last day at work, apparently, on Monday, May 9, but what exactly happened is not clear.

He had been working in the job for about 11 months and we can only surmise that relationships between Mr Calleja and the G-MW board must have deteriorated to the point where he left the organisation at short notice.

This is troubling for an organisation which has a number of critical projects under way and needs strong and enduring leadership.

It is particularly galling for the modernisation project, Connections, which has already had a number of interruptions and is under considerable time pressure.

There was the mid-term review, which was critical of management and progress; the appointment of new management, called the Project Control Group; and the ‘re-set’ which has allowed a 12-week deadline for the development of a new way ahead.

The incoming managing director or chief executive officer will not have the benefit of a hand-over, and it could take months to find someone of the calibre required.

We also have a number of questions over the decision to dispense with Mr Calleja’s services, as he appeared to have a good grasp of the issues, and was making progress in helping transform the organisation.

We know a number of irrigators who may not have agreed with everything he said, but who respected his knowledge and skill.

It is also hard to see how the relationship with the board could deteriorate so quickly, as Mr Calleja was well known to the board, having spent five years with G-MW.

As for the decision not to speak about the reasons for the ‘departure’, the people in Mr Calleja’s position and the people on the board have the potential to have an enormous impact on the businesses of thousands of northern Victorian irrigators.

It’s right for them to entertain an interest in the management of the organisation.